I have been trying to arrange a meeting with this author – so erudite, so prolific – ever since I learned he summered in Maine, so I was glad when he said he could drop in on his way home. It was going to be an afternoon exchange of books and shop talk, but when he called to say he was late, we invited him and his wife for dinner- what else can you do, really, with someone showing up at 7? Quan was tired and under the weather, but I went down and fetched some oysters from the river while she rustled up a pasta and salad from our fading garden.

They missed the directions, so we had to talk them in the last few miles with a cell phone, but every time I tried to give him directions he talked right over me, so it took five calls and me standing out by the roadside to get them safely in the driveway.

Ear-to-Vocal coordination is as important and complex as Eye-Hand. Disorders of this sort come across as social faux pas sometimes.

Once they got inside the conversation was as good as I expected, wide-ranging and hip, though he clearly had attention problems and was constantly breaking off in mid-sentence (his or mine) to get on the phone to various people or on his computer checking game scores or something.

They brought nothing for the meal. But that was peanuts: Imagine our surprise when they just went out to their car and brought their suitcases in. Not word one – not a question, not an offer, just full-on presumption (they had an hour+ drive to get home, so we assumed – fools, us – that they would want to get on, as we would have). So we scampered to prepare a guest room. But it turned out they needed two, as they slept badly together. They continued on the computer while we prepared their rooms.

We go to bed early here, and had had a long day. After midnight these two were still prowling around the house – going up and down stairs, banging doors, having showers, flushing toilets, talking. I was ready to cheerfully strangle both of them, and damn the loss to literary history.

Morning starts early for us, too, and the day was well scheduled. But these folks had reached a time of life and wealth where they were seemingly on perpetual holiday – she needed to talk to Quan about the marriage (clearly in co-dependent trouble), and he got a session from me – and my friends and faculty know how hard that is.

He did indeed have an ear problem – a tin-ear, I would say, as he does not listen. His ears were fibrous and inert, his vestibular nerve trapped differently on each side. I wasn’t able to figure out in one session what was the cause of his listening capacity shutting down. But as in so many cases of these almost autist-artists, the shutting down of one set of channels forces other valves open.

Ten in the morning and they’re still here, lying on the porch – nice for people on vacation, but we’re not. Finally, both Quan and I had to be quite rude and just get to our work and leave them to their own devices, as our subtler hints were simply not being heard. They left the beds unmade and the towels unhung. He was generous with his remaindered books. Quan – tolerance of unconsciousness is not one of her faults – will not easily host them again.

I know, I know – great genius and great childishness often co-exist in the same body. And besides, I like these people, both of them. Few people have tasted, eaten, digested, and synthesized one-quarter of what this man has nailed so deliciously in his books. Science, literature, philosophy, the coming changes at this crux of the human experiment – how can he be of such service to the world and so unconscious of the signals coming from his fellow humans? And so presumptive that the rest of the world revolves around him and his needs?

I guess this is how it works in California or somewhere else, but please, if you want to spend the night, just ask. We’ve been blessed, we don’t mind sharing, but please don’t take it so for granted.

Having unloaded this way, for my presumptuous attitude over the years May I be forgiven and All my victims blessed, amen. It feels to me that as my stature grows and the years add up, I presume less, but maybe others would say differently?


One Response to “Presumption”

  1. JM Says:

    Perhaps he assumed you would express your boundaries.

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